A Match Made in Heaven Chapter 5
佳偶天成 (A Match Made in Heaven) by 十四郎
The forest was dark and the sky was gloomy. Xin Mei ran and ran for her life along the muddy road, her heart ready to pop out of her throat from beating so fast.
Suddenly, a large hand grabbed her. A certain man with a paralyzed face pinched her chin between his fingers.
"Kyahahaha! What a pretty lady! Follow me back to be the mistress of my fort!"
Xin Mei's face lost its color as she threw an overwhelming struggle against him.
"No! I won't marry you! I…"
She fell from the bed and the sound of her head knocking the ground made a loud noise.
Eh. It was a dream.
Xin Mei lied on the ground for a while. Listlessly, she stared at the faded paint on the roof beams in the ceiling of the room. A ray of sunlight shined above her, highlighting specks of dust slowly dancing. She could hear the sound of running water outside, along with the sound of someone speaking. She wrapped the blanket around her and slowly sat up. She thought for a moment, and then crawled back onto bed.
Since she couldn't leave the room, might as well sleep.
Yesterday evening Lu Qian Qiao brought her to the Huang Ling. She honestly expected the Huang Ling (Imperial Mausoleum) to be a desolate place filled with weeds and creaking corners out of which ghosts and phantoms lurked… Who knew that after bursting through the dense fog there would a field of cherry blossoms. The massive rock statues that lined the secret path towards the Huang Ling were almost submerged in dazzling pink petals.
The landscape was extraordinary and unexpected. Blue mountains and clear waters in the distance while the compound itself was made of clean gray bricks and white-washed walls. It was a peaceful and benign place.
But none of this had anything to do with Xin Mei, because once they arrived at the Huang Ling, Lu Qian Qiao threw her into this room.
"Si Lan, watch over her carefully. Don't let her out of this room."
Lu Qian Qiao imparted these instructions to the guard outside her door and then turned around and left. Xin Mei dazed off on the bed by herself for most of the evening. She originally wanted to talk to the man named Si Lan, who was guarding the door, except he was Mr. Face Paralysis Number Two. No matter what she said, he appeared to be both deaf and mute. However, as soon as she tried opening the windows, he would immediately block her off like an iron fence.
Frustrated, Xin Mei had nothing left to do but sleep.
"Brother Si Lan, I heard Brother Lu brought home a young lady last night. Since she is a guest, I made something for her to eat. I am troubling you to hand it to her. I hope it suits her taste."
Such a graceful female voice! Ah! Such moving words… Xin Mei leaned out the windowsill to see Si Lan take a box of food from a young woman wearing pink dress. The young woman raised her head to look at her.
Wow… seriously… Xin Mei racked her brains for a while before settling for the most suitable words to express her praise for the young woman's looks: This girl was as beautiful as a flower!
"Thank you for your kind intentions, Miss Ying Lian."
So that Si Lan can speak after all… and he can speak pretty pleasantly on top of that. Ying Lian lightly smiled at Xin Mei before she turned around and left.
"Eat." Si Lan turned around and put up a paralyzed face again as he placed the box of food on the window sill.
Xin Mei was overjoyed, and she quickly opened the box to find two large wooden cases filled with countless delicate pastries and covered with glass lids. She went hungry for the whole night and her eyes were seeing stars from dizziness. She hurriedly picked up a piece of Fragrant Snow Lotus Pastry and shoved it into her mouth.
Noticing Si Lan's unusual gaze on her from the other side of the window and seeing the hint of envy in his eyes, Xin Mei thought for a moment before asking, "Do you want some?"
Si Lan cleared his face of expression and ignored her.
Xin Mei sighed as she said to herself, "Face paralysis is a serious illness. You should really get someone to take a look at it."
Si Lan seemed to twitch twice. With a "bang," the windows slammed shut.
Xin Mei picked up another pastry, and just as she bit off half of it, the doors to her room suddenly opened. The Lu Qian Qiao who had disappeared all night stood at the entrance, his back against the light, looking at her. Xin Mei dropped her pastry, looked around her and then hid behind a wardrobe.
There were some crumbs at the edge of her mouth, and her hair was still not yet brushed, falling across her shoulders haphazardly. She looked like a rabbit… the soft white kind.
Lu Qian Qiao closed the doors behind him and entered the room. Xin Mei swallowed, her head running with the thoughts of scenarios from plays where, inside sealed rooms, and beneath a single, ominous ray of light, the villain reaches out his evil claws to grab the female protagonist…
Xin Mei really wanted to hide inside the wardrobe.
"Come here. Sit." Lu Qian Qiao indicated for her to sit on a chair.
"I'm not going over."
He feigned some steps in her direction and in response she immediately flashed over to sit on the chair.
Lu Qian Qiao rubbed his forehead. "How do you know how to break the Mist Formation? Who taught you?"
"I told you already that I don't know any Mist Formation…"
"Speak the truth."
"The truth is that my sense of direction is really good…"
Lu Qian Qiao didn't respond and simply stared at her quietly. The outline of his figure was striking, while his dark eyes were as piercing as jewels. Even though his face was as graceful as jade, it contained not a hint of the gentleness of jade. He didn't hide any of his coldness, and every moment his demeanor was as ostentatiously dangerous as that of a fine, sharp blade.
Right now, that dazzling blade was pointed directly at Xin Mei.
Xin Mei met Lu Qian Qiao's gaze without the slightest hint of fear. He thought that even her courage felt soft. His gaze darted to the pastry crumbs on her cheeks and his brows couldn't help by twitch.
"You know…" Xin Mei watched his twitching brows and offered advice from the kindness of her heart. "Face paralysis is a serious illness. You should really get someone to take a look at it. I know a doctor in Lu Shui Town whose acupuncture is pretty good…"
Expressionlessly, Lu Qian Qiao lifted a hand in her direction. Xin Mei's face paled and she immediately looked around her for a place to hide herself.
He grabbed her arm. Panicking, Xin Mei deliberated whether her next course of action should be to scream, faint, or just fight with all her might to protect her innocence. Unexpectedly, he dragged her over to the windows and opened them.
A mild spring view met their faces. The pear blossoms outside of the windows were in full blossom. Amongst the white-as-cotton petals, several little Flower Demons could be seen laughing and playing tricks inside the branches.
In the distance, one could also see a range of jade-green mountains hiding peaceful farming families.
"Three hundred and sixty-two demons," Lu Qian Qiao spoke dispassionately. "Huang Ling is their home. I won't let them outside to hurt others… and I definitely won't let others come inside to hurt them."
Huang Ling was imperial land set aside for the imperial mausoleum, after all. Rumors of ghosts and hauntings were of no great significance, but if the Emperor actually knew that there was an entire crowd of demons passing their days in a carefree, joyous manner, one could expect that the very next day there will be Xian people dispatched to Huang Ling to exterminate everything.
Xin Mei scratched her head and just quietly said, "Oh."
"I don't care how you broke the Mist Formation. But since you are a threat to me, each day that I don't resolve this is another day that I can't let you free."
Lu Qian Qiao let go of her arm.
Xin Mei paled in shock. "You… you don't speak reason…"
He seemed to laugh a bit, "I have never spoken reason."
Xin Mei thought that it was about time she got serious about expressing where she stood in all of this. "Even if you lock me up until I die, I will not marry you to be the mistress of your fort!"
Lu Qian Qiao looked down at his hand. He really wanted to take that over-imaginative head that didn't listen to anybody's words and ferociously kick it like a football…
Lu Qian Qiao turned around with a flick of his sleeves and ordered Si Lan who was standing outside the doors, "Watch her. Other than water, don't give her anything to eat. Also, don't let others come near her."
Si Lan cupped his fists deferentially in response, "Yes, general."
General? He was a demon, what the hell kind of a general could he be?! Xin Mei's stomach was so full of anger that she searched all her brains for some appropriate curses, but she couldn't come up with anything. She could only hit her pillow by herself to let off steam.
"Brother Qian Qiao…" A young child's voice called out to Lu Qian Qiao from outside the window. Xin Mei turned around and saw a little bird demon shaped as round as a dumpling. He flew precariously and in a wobbly manner. He was much smaller than the bird demon that she saw that last time she was in Huang Ling. This one was flying in such a wobbly, shaky manner that he didn't really look like a bird. He looked more like a fat little duck.
Lu Qian Qiao raised a hand to take ahold of the bird demon in his arms. In that instant, the sunlight fell on him, and that paralyzed face suddenly expressed a miraculous gentleness.
"My brother said that he has already finished the preparations, and he would like to ask you when you can give him the neidan." The little bird demon's child-like voice chirped a question.
"Soon." Lu Qian Qiao stiffly patted the bird demon's little head.
Si Lan took the food box away, and Xin Mei clutched at her hungry stomach while sitting beside the windowsill and staring off into space. She didn't know how long she spent like this before she fell asleep. In her dreams, she was eating from a huge plate of roasted wings and legs with her saliva running down her chin…
By the time the sky darkened, Si Lan looked at her starved and listless figure and couldn't help but speak, "If you just speak the truth then you wouldn't need to go hungry!"
Xin Mei stubbornly turned her head and gave a "hmph."
"Nothing good comes to those who fight against the general."
"Why do you keep calling that demon 'general'?" Xin Mei said disdainfully.
Si Lan flared in indignation, "Who told you he is a demon? He is the Qiong Country's official General Biao Qi! Ever since he was fifteen years old, he has been guarding a career of military successes!"
"General Piao Ji? (~Riding Whores)" Xin Mei was stunned.
"General BIAO. QI. (~Riding Horse)" Si Lan was about to blow up.
"Why doesn't your general go out to fight in wars, then? Why is he hanging out here in Huang Ling?"
Si Lan seemed to sadden. "The emperor has eyes but he still doesn't see the truth for what it is. He believed in slander and demoted the general to watch over Huang Ling…"
Xin Mei finally understood. "So he was a general who kept losing battles, and the emperor banished him to Huang Ling once and for all!"
Si Lan angrily slammed the windows shut.
In the deep night, not a single peep emitted from the room. Si Lan felt a little worried. She was a young girl after all, and she had eaten nothing but two pieces of pastries all day. She was probably hungry to the point of illness. He looked at the box of food beside him, deliberating over whether he should secret a piece to her to allay her hunger.
Suddenly, there was a loud racket inside the room. Si Lan quickly opened the windows but was suddenly met with a huge gust of wind. Without any warning, he was smacked by a large force and his body flew out and fainted.
Sitting on top of Qiu Yue, Xin Mei petted its head and praised, "Good job!"
Good thing she still had the trump card. She didn't pull out Qiu Yue the first night because she wanted them to lower their guard for this moment.
"Qiu Yue, let's quickly and quietly fly away."
She ordered the pelican as she held tightly onto its neck.